WordPress 4.4 “Clifford” Featuring Responsive Images, Twenty Sixteen, and More

After four months of intense development led by Scott Taylor, WordPress 4.4 “Clifford” named after jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown, is available for download. This release features responsive images, WordPress embeds, the Twenty Sixteen default theme, the first half of the REST API, and a host of small improvements.

Responsive Images

Responsive Images in WordPress 4.4
Responsive Images in WordPress 4.4

When users upload images to WordPress, it automatically crops them to smaller sizes. For example, if you upload an image that’s 1500 x 706, the image sizes might look like this:

  • Full Size – 1500 x 706
  • Large – 500 x 235
  • Medium – 300 x 141
  • Thumbnail – 150 x 150

WordPress 4.4 adds srcset and sizes support to WordPress. This allows the software to automatically use and display the right image based on a device’s screen size. If I attach a full size 1500 x 706 image to a post in WordPress 4.4 to be viewed on a desktop, mobile devices will see the large or medium-sized image instead.

This decreases the amount of bandwidth used to load websites since smaller images have smaller file sizes. Responsive images don’t have any settings to configure as the magic happens behind the scenes.

Embed WordPress Posts

For a number of years, users have been able to embed content from trusted sources simply by pasting the URL into the visual editor. In 4.4, WordPress itself becomes a trusted oEmbed source which allows anyone to easily embed content from WordPress powered sites.

Embedded content displays in an iframe with a link to comments, a share icon, and an excerpt of the post. Here’s an example of what an oEmbedded post from a site running WordPress 4.4 looks like.

Feature Plugin Merge Proposal: oEmbed

If you want to disable the ability for people to embed your content, install and activate the Disable Embeds plugin. Disable Embeds does the following:

  • Prevents others from embedding your site.
  • Prevents you from embedding other non-whitelisted sites.
  • Disables all JavaScript related to the feature.

WordPress embeds started off as a feature plugin proposal by Pascal Birchler. Check out ticket #32522 to see how it progressed from a proposal to a core feature.

Phase One of the REST API

WordPress 4.4 includes the first half of the REST API. The infrastructure portion of the API handles the routing, argument handling, JSON serialisation/deserialisation, status codes, and other items related to the API.

Plugin and theme authors can start using the API immediately using the infrastructure in core to replace existing custom admin-ajax endpoints. To learn how to authenticate with the API, see this post by Ryan Mccue.

Twenty Sixteen

Twenty Sixteen is a new default theme designed by Takashi Irie, that was built with a mobile first, responsive approach. It has an optional right-hand sidebar and displays author information to the left of posts. It comes with four different color schemes, dark, gray, red, and yellow. Each scheme can be modified using the Customizer.

Twenty Sixteen Homepage
Twenty Sixteen Homepage

Other Noteworthy Changes

WordPress Multisite

WordPress Multisite has a new class called WP_Network. There’s also *_network_option functions which make it easier to use multiple networks. Jeremy Felt highlights new hooks added, bug fixes, and deprecated functions.

WP_Comments Component is Rebuilt

The comments component has undergone a substantial amount of work. The most noticeable difference is that the comment field displays first, followed by the Name, Email, and URL fields. This change improves navigation when using the keyboard to toggle through fields. It also makes it easier for users to leave comments.

Comment Text Area is First
Comment Text Area is First

Changes to the Headings Hierarchy on Admin Screens

In an effort to improve accessibility, the headings hierarchy in the backend of WordPress 4.4 restores the H1 heading level to admin screens. This helps screen readers discern and locate important information on a page.

Plugin and theme authors are highly encouraged to restructure their document headings hierarchy to ensure that heading levels are not skipped. Andrea Fercia explains why it matters and how to ensure you have the proper headings.

Taxonomy Term Meta

In the last few releases cycles, the team has been working hard to complete tasks from the Taxonomy roadmap.

In WordPress 4.3, the development team successfully split shared taxonomy terms, which ensures that terms can be uniquely identified by their term_id. In 4.4, the $taxonomy parameter is now optional in get_term() and get_term_field(), functions that previously required both $term_id and $taxonomy.

WordPress 4.4 also introduces Term Meta where developers can use the new term meta API to store arbitrary data about taxonomy terms, in the same way you would for posts, users, or comments.

Boone Gorges, one of the lead developers working on the roadmap, explains the improvements in detail related to Taxonomy data in WordPress 4.4.

WP_Title is Not Deprecated

Contrary to earlier reports, the core development team decided not to deprecate the WP_Title function. It’s considered a zombie function and add_theme_support( 'title-tag' ); remains the recommended way to insert the title tag in themes.

Miscellaneous Changes

WordPress 4.4 has more than 2,000 commits from over 400 contributors. In the State of The Word 2015, Taylor says that one of the goals in this release was to go through the extensive backlog of tickets and review patches that were forgotten. Thanks to the efforts of volunteer bug gardeners on Trac, he accomplished that goal.

If you experience any issues with WordPress 4.4, please report them on the support forums. Volunteers are watching support threads closely and, if warranted, will create a thread listing known issues. After updating your sites, come back and let us know what you think of the new features.

53 Comments


  1. Awesome!

    Anyone know what plugin was powering the taxonomy icon/colours in the new 4.4 video?

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    1. Amber, I don’t think it was a plugin. This was just added as a feature in 4.4, so it wasn’t available to plugin devs until today.

      Justin Tadlock has a great explanation of how to use Term Meta, which includes a tutorial on adding taxonomy colours. I encourage you to give it a try :-)

      In the next few weeks, you’ll likely see a few plugin’s pop up, as plugin developers get their hands dirty with the WP_Term class.

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      1. @Dave – Thanks for the article. I’ll be sure to read through it and do some playing.

        @Timothy – Thanks for the links. :)

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      2. Nice links. I just saw the introduction video and noticed the colors for the terms and wanted to ask the same questions. These are the exact plugins I need. Thanks.

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  2. I’m wondering if there’s a way to have the wordpress site embeds open in a different tab or window after you click on them instead of leaving the site. Even when I link to my own posts, I’d rather the user click the link without having to leave the post completely.

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    1. Yeah, that was one of the things I liked about Content Cards – haven’t tested yet, but wondering if the oEmbed link can be edited to open in new window using the “edit link” feature.

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  3. Updated to WP 4.4. It is AWESOME!.

    Still exploring it and the comments won’t even make have been redesigned.
    Big ups to the team.

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  4. I will never, ever, ever understand why the WP team even bothers to create new themes.

    They all suck – bad. Twenty Sixteen is no exception.

    Are there not any good designers contributing to WP?

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    1. Ron, I will never understand why you would make such a derogatory statement towards a group of individuals who worked incredibly hard to produce something they are proud of, and provide no constructive criticism, or offer any helpful feedback.

      If you don’t like the theme(s), don’t use them. There are thousands of free themes in the directory, and hundreds more created every day by *other* talented WordPress designers.

      Better yet, get involved in the process of the new theme on the WordPress blog. You’d be pleasantly surprised how welcoming they are to user’s feedback (but you’ll want to be a little more polite).

      Aside from design, there is a lot to learn about theme development from each new theme that WordPress releases. What better place to learn best practices than from a group of WordPress theme designers themselves?

      And I totally understand if you don’t like the theme, but guess what? Last year’s sucky, bad default theme, Twenty Fifteen, is actively installed on more WordPress websites than any other theme in the repository.

      Someone likes it. A lot of someones.

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      1. Ok. Constructive criticism.

        Your themes SUCK! Do better!

        Is that better?

        I use Divi anyways. No loss on my part. I would just have thought that the WP team would prefer to highlight what is possible – not what is the most boring.

        Just my opinion….and many others as well I’m sure.

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      2. Saying themes SUCK is NOT constructive.

        Why does it suck?
        How can they improve on the default theme?

        Just because YOU find it boring (0.00000000000001% of the WordPress community), doesn’t mean it is boring.

        WordPress community does not revolved around your needs. WordPress can’t please everyone.

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      3. If the WordPress Community revolves around ONE person, that person should be ME. That way i would be allowed to ask, how much lube will it be necessary to take the stick out of your a**.

        That is what I would tell people who say “theme” sucks (or core, or plugin). Coming from people who gave up their free time to try to please as many people, same people who accepted feedback during the process.

        Are you making any money out of WordPress? Is your site powered by WordPress? Yet all you can say is that they suck? Thousands of people give up their time FOR FREE and create themes and uploads. Throughout the process there are countless methods to contact them and the 466 people who contributed to WordPress 4.4. Yet you are ungrateful by saying “They all suck” I even copy/pasted from your comment above.

        I am eternally grateful/thankful to Matt Mullenweg and the WordPress Community, WordPress changed my life.

        I even got several replies over the years from Matt and even at an event in Toronto, Matt Mullenweg came up to me and said thank you for your contributions to WordPress and shook my hand.

        Yes Jeff, I know you will most likely delete this comment.

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    2. I think you’re wrong.
      Basic themes are not something done for the show.

      Since TwentyTwelve, basic themes are ways to showcase new features. Differences between TwentyEleven and TwentyTwelve are huge. TwentyTwelve introduced responsive blogs (while TwentyThirteen introduced something no one cared for: brown shades of colors).
      Actually, technology didn’t get better last year, and so differences between TwentyFifteen and TwentySixteen are mostly behind the hood. That’s why apparently it sucks and is just ‘fifteen with the sidebar misplaced and the same author face all over the site again and again.
      While TwentySixteen sucks, for a very large number of issues (does ANYONE tried it with latin languages? Is li – ke writ i- ng wi – th hiccup -s ) it’s instead a perfect showcase of new functions like “responsive images that was already here”, “rest api: the beginning of an app store” and “embed post but install a plugin to avoid being quoted by Isis”. And don’t forget the uncanny ability to turn your blog YELLOW. There are a lotta people that want to stare a YELLOW page. And get blinded.

      A lot of people did efforts to give you a very powerfull theme you can use for almost any kind of cat blog. And if you don’t like it, just use another theme. And if someone stole your car, keep quiet and buy another one. Keep quiet, ’cause you don’t know how to build a car. The day you’ll build a car, you can talk about cars. Since that day, let a php coder tell you what’s right and what is not.

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  5. Oooh. Okay, that new single template sounds like it’s just begging for me to play with it :)

    May have to explore disabling the WP embeds… not 100% sold on that one yet.

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    1. Summer — If you’re worried about your content being embedded, the disable embeds plugin will solve that for you. It will also prevent you from embedding anyone else’s content.

      But if you simply want to insert clickable links to content that WordPress 4.4 would normally try to create an embed, you can still insert those links. Here’s a short video showing you how:


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      1. Not sure what happened with the embed, but let’s try it this way. Copy & paste the URL if you’d like to watch it.



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  6. So I updated to 4.4, and the new oEmbed feature is nice. But…

    Were some features left out at the last minute? Not seeing Twenty Sixteen, for example – and it looks like the comment box is only at the top for non-logged in users?

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      1. Huh. Interesting – cheers for the heads up. Is this to do with the new way to track popular themes by actual installs in use, as opposed to installs not used but counted?

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      2. Not seen any connection between this decision/policy and popular themes tracking.

        Popular themes are now tracked by active installs, aren’t they?

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      3. So I believe. But from some discussions I saw around this topic across multiple WP forums, there still seemed to be a grey area around this.

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      4. I think this change is done actually mostly for filesize reasons. If the filesize of the package being downloaded becomes to large, the updates will fail on certain hosting environments. This is also the reason why the third party import tools (ex: blogger to WordPress) are now available as plugins as opposed to being in core. Keeps the download size smaller.

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      5. Gotcha. Which would make sense – although it doesn’t get round the file size issue if/when you need to add something that used to be core and isn’t anymore. WordPress is a funny place to be, at times. :)

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      6. The filesize issue isn’t the file storage of the host, it’s the size of a ZIP that can be sent at a time.

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    1. For logged-in users there is only a comment text box, and no name, email, or website fields. Other fields you see above(?) the comment box, for logged in users, has to be plugin/theme related.

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      1. No, I get that – but wouldn’t it make sense to keep the “experience” the same? If I’m logged in, I need to scroll as per previous version of WP, if I want to get to the comment box (for argument’s sake, to make a broadcast update about the discussion). If I’m logged out, the box is at the top.

        So, from an effective use of time UX-wise, it could be quicker for me in logged-out stated to make an update using my normal signed-in credentials.
        Maybe I’m over-thinking, just seems an odd choice.

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      2. ? Comments didn’t get much love for a long long time and there is probably much to improve with the UX. At least moving the important part of the comment to be higher is now done (if you are bored – my rant on this subject from 3 years ago – http://eng.marksw.com/2013/01/01/almost-all-wordpress-themes-suck-at-comment-form-design/)

        The problem with registered user commenting without being logged-in is that WordPress core do not know to associate the comment with the user and depending on your anti-spam policy the comment might need to be moderated.

        my solution (plugin here – http://shop.marksw.com/downloads/prevent-comment-impersonation-plugin/) is to actually force user login when the email address in the comment matches a registered user’s email. But this of course only half way solution to the problem you raise and there still needs to be a way for a logged in user to comment as someone else without logging out first.

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      3. Good points. For me, personally, I’m not so bothered, as I use Epoch which does allow the comment box to be at the top (or you can simply hyperlink to the comment box, even if there are hundreds of comments). Although that still doesn’t really solve the logged-in/non-logged in issue you highlight.

        It never fails to amaze me that they don’t tie it back to your Gravatar/Wordpress.com account, if you have multiple emails addresses connected based on what types of blog you’re commenting on (or running).
        There could be a simple dropdown box that allows you to choose which email you wish to use – job done.

        Or am I missing something about this solution (for example, would the blog need to be running Jetpack comments)?

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      4. @danny, I never thought about email selection, but in the end it boils down ro comment section not getting love gtom core developers Maybe most people are just happy with it as it is and no own complains.

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  7. Anyone feels like there is wastage of space in left. Since the title starts on left and article in middle it feels like something is out of order especially when you are farther down in the blow where there is empty space on both sides.

    PS:- Will I get replies to my comment if I don’t check the “Join the discussion via email.”

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    1. No. To get a reply or notification, you need to sign up for a reply or notification.

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      1. Looks like I have to either subscribe to all comments or no comments. There is no option to subscribe to replies.

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      2. I believe that’s coming in a future update but, yes, it’s all or nothing.
        Which, to be fair, makes more sense – the beauty of comments is to take part in a bigger discussion about the post. If you just want replies to your own comment, it’s essentially saying you don’t care what anyone else thinks.

        May as well just tweet the blogger or similar, for that one-to-one option.
        :)

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  8. After playing (a little) with twentysixteen I have to agree about it being a meh.

    Other features are not inspiring at all for the casual blogger or SMB sites but some releases are just like that. The term meta API will become IMO the most used feature of this release and for me it is the main reason to upgrade (assuming people actually need a solid reason for that)

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  9. Great job on this everyone! I’m really excited to see where all of this goes. Rachel Baker’s talk about templating with the REST API really inspired me to dig into it as deep as possible and I am looking forward to see what type of REST themes people come up with!

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  10. oEmbed looks pretty promising. I’m happy also about the Different image sizes. Looking forward to looking under the hood of this one!

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  11. After some trying Twenty sixteen, removed 1 meter of padding from all sides and currently I am a happy user of that theme. Looks cool, clean and it’s relatively fast.

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  12. I’m fairly new to WordPress and not tech-savvy at all, so I apologize for using layman terms here. I’m having all sorts of problems ever since the auto update to 4.4. When I hover over something in the dashboard menu on the left (e.g., Posts), the submenu does not come up (e.g., All Posts, Add New, etc.). When I click Add New Theme, there are no themes shown. It is just blank. Clicking on certain things does nothing (e.g., Screen Options at the top does nothing). The support threads seem so congested I don’t even know where to begin. I’m having the same problems on any browser I try. I have deactivated every plugin with no success. I cannot change themes (since my themes menu is just blank as noted above). I have not heard anyone say that they are experiencing these same types of problems. Any suggestions to get me going in the right direction?

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    1. You could try clearing your browser cache. If it still doesn’t work after that, try deactivating all plugins temporarily. One of them could be causing the bug.

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  13. Trying to upgrade to WP4.4 but it fails each time. Cannot manually upgrade either – help!

    Website due to go live in 2016

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